Numerous people going through cancer treatments suffer from insomnia, which may include difficulty falling asleep, waking up sometime during the night and staying awake, or frequent nighttime waking. Some medications can interfere with sleep, either directly or indirectly. For example, steroids can cause insomnia and diuretics cause multiple trips to the bathroom throughout the night that disrupt sleep. Side effects of cancer and some cancer treatments, including pain, nausea, and night sweats, can hinder a good night’s sleep. Insomnia may worsen other cancer-related ailments such as fatigue, pain, depression or anxiety. Prolonged insomnia can disrupt the quality of life.
If you experience insomnia, you should discuss it with your health care team and talk about the difficulties you are having, so you can get the help you need. Your doctor might refer you to a palliative care center or a sleep specialist that could diagnose and treat sleep problems. The specialist will probably take a thorough history and conduct a physical exam to understand the underlying cause and then treat it accordingly. For example, if you suffer from the restless legs syndrome (RLS) that prevents you from sleeping at night, your doctor might be able to treat the RLS and consequently, insomnia.
If the insomnia is due to stress and anxiety, behavioral techniques or relaxation therapies can be useful. Medications may help alleviate insomnia, but sleeping pills are not a valid long-term treatment. Some
Belong users that discussed this issue in various community groups recommend remedies that worked for them. They include (among others) taking a warm bath before bed, trying caffeine-free herbal teas, or experimenting with aromatherapy such as lavender oil. Other suggestions include relaxation techniques before bed, sticking to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time every day. Others suggest exercising throughout the day (just make sure not to do it too close to bedtime).
Have you suffered from insomnia? What helped you? How did you cope? Please share your tips, advice, and anything else that might assist others.